Finland’s Ville Itälä will be the new director-general of OLAF, the EU’s anti-fraud office. He comes from the Finnish Kokoomus party, affiliated with the centre-right European Peoples’ Party (EPP) and will move to Olaf from his current post with the European Court of Auditors.
OLAF has been seeking a new boss since Giovanni Kessler was appointed the head of the Italian Customs and Monopoly Agency last July. Nicholas Ilett has been the acting Director- General.
There had been a few dozens of candidates initially. Following a long procedure covered by confidentiality, two candidates emerged in April, Itälä, and Bulgaria’s Ivailo Kalfin, a former S&D MEP.
On Wednesday (20 June), the Commission appointed Itälä, who will take the post as of 1 August.
Congratulations Ville Itälä, new Director-General of the European Anti-Fraud Office OLAF! Following a selection procedure involving the EP & the Council @EU_Commission appointed Mr Itälä to the post as of 01/08. His lawyer’s background & extensive experience will come to good use
— Jyrki Katainen (@jyrkikatainen) June 20, 2018
Itälä served as the interior minister in Paavo Lipponen’s cabinet from September 2000 to April 2003. He was elected chairman of the National Coalition Party (Kokoomus) in 2001. Following his resignation as party leader in 2004, he was succeeded by Jyrki Katainen. Itälä was a member of the European Parliament from 2004 until 29 February 2012 and has since been a member of the European Court of Auditors.
In May, Kalfin complained that he had had no support from Bulgaria’s ambassador to the EU, Dimitar Tzantchev. The latter explained that pushing for a Bulgarian candidate would have been inappropriate because his country was holding the EU presidency [from January to July this year].
EPP is often accused of winning too many top jobs in European institutions. In an op-ed for the Guardian, Natalie Nougayrède, a former chief editor of Le Monde, wrote that pressure was building in Europe against the ubiquitous EPP, which has dominated the European Parliament for years.
The most important task for the new OLAF chief will be to improve relations with the European Parliament, which deteriorated seriously under Kessler in the Dalligate case, a corruption affair involving the EU.